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Saturday, April 13, 2024

On ghost stories; literary events in September

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I’ve been laid up in bed the past few months because of illness and I have a lot of free time. I’ve been catching up on my reading and am revisiting Victorian and Edwardian novels and stories.

A favorite genre of the era was ghost stories. They were quite popular among a people who were obsessed with death and the afterlife. It was during this period that mediums and séances were all the rage, and devices to warn of premature burial were advertised in newspapers. (The Victorians were terrified of being buried alive.)

These were a people who had strict etiquette on mourning, extending to the garb won. The severity and color of the dress depended on the status of the mourner and proximity to the deceased (widow? Daughter? A cousin twice removed?) 

So it’s no surprise that ghost stories were widely read. Among the famous authors of the day who wrote them were Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, M. R. James, and many others. 

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Are there parallels in Philippine literature? We don’t have a canon of ghost stories, and the only such works I can think of in that direction are the popular series of urban legends and ghostly tales from Visprint, with many of the stories coming from contributors. 

Other publishers have also come out with horror anthologies and collections, but in total we don’t have a body of work similar to what the Victorians and Edwardians came up with.

I look forward to a compendium of Philippine ghostly tales, particularly the ‘true to life’ stories. With Halloween and Hundas just around the corner, it’s that spooky time again. 

* * *

This month is for all things literary in the Philippines, from writers’ awards nights to book fairs and other events.

First, the 39th Manila International Book Fair is happening on Sept. 12-16, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at SMX-Mall of Asia. Scores of bookstores and publishers will be selling their wares to the public, many at discounted prices. 

* * *

The UST Publishing House under the directorship of professor and author Ailil B. Alvarez will be showcasing academic and literary books at stalls #256-257 at the MIBF, with some of their most popular authors on hand to sign their books.

Among them are Joselito de los Reyes (Paubaya, Finding Teo), Ralph Semino Galan (From the Major Arcana, Discernments), Chuckberry Pascual (Kumpisal: Mga Kuwento) and other writers and poets who have been published under the UST-PH aegis.

* * *

On Sept. 25, the Philippines Graphic will be holding the 2018 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards at El Calle Bar, Resorts World Manila. The award is given for best short story published in the magazine during a given year. There are first to third placers and three honorable mentions. The list of winners has not been released, making the reveal more exciting when it happens. 

* * *

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing is now accepting applications up to Sept. 30 from writers in mid-career for the 58th UP National Writers Workshop. 

The workshop will be held on April 21-28, 2019, venue to be announced. All fellows will receive a modest stipend and free hotel accommodation. Applicants must be writers in English, Filipino, or other Philippine languages, and must submit one original unpublished manuscript not exceeding 6,000 words.

For the documentary and other requirements, please visit or send an email to

* * *

An exception to the usual annual September schedule: the awards night of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, usually held Sept. 1 at the Manila Peninsula, will be held on Oct. 5 instead. Submission of entries this year, usually end of April, were extended by a month.


Dr. Ortuoste, a writer and researcher, has a PhD in Communication. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

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